A week before Christmas, my husband and I stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. The hostess seated us in a booth and took our order. As we were eating our lunch, an elderly man entered the restaurant, did not have a hostess seat him and sat himself down in a booth two down from us. As soon as I saw him, I told my husband that the gentleman reminded me of my step dad, who is deceased. No one was in the booth between us and I could see the man sitting at his table. I kept thinking about my step dad and how much I missed him. After we paid for our meal, I asked the hostess if I could secretly pay for the gentleman’s meal sitting in the nearby booth. She told me that the man had not ordered anything yet and had just been looking at the menu for a long time. So, I decided to just buy a restaurant gift card and give it to him. So I purchased the gift card and approached him. He was looking at the menu and was running one finger over the pictures of food on the menu. In addition, I noticed that he did not have a drink on his table which is unusual. I said “hello, I would like to buy your lunch today”. He looked up said “and why is this?”. I slid the gift card over the table top towards him and said “because you remind me of someone I used to know and I miss him”. He smiled, looked me straight in the eye, stuck out his hand for a handshake and said “Merry Christmas”. Not thank you (of which I did not care), or any other statement except “Merry Christmas” and I got the clear message that he had given me a gift, not vice versa. Maybe he was not an angel. Maybe he was not a messenger. But in my heart, he was sent to give me a special gift of a smile, a touch and a Merry Christmas message from someone who I love, loved and miss immensely. I will never forget.
Last week brought heartache to our family. My son’s wife left him, taking her son from a previous marriage with her. That precious boy is still our grandson, no matter what happens next. In my heart, there are no step children or step grandchildren in our family and divorce, if it comes to that, will not sever the tie between our grandson and us. My husband and I feel the same about this. My children and grandchildren are his own. His son and grandchildren are my own. Any grandchildren that were brought into our family by prior marriages are treated and loved the same as the others.
Who, what, why, when and where are all questions that come to mind in regards to this break up. I could probably answer all those questions, if so inclined, but I am just now settling my mind down to some sort of acceptance so I don’t want to push it. My son is an alcoholic although doing better these past few months, this is the consequence for actions when he was at his worst. He also suffers from depression and usually winter is a very hard time for him but not this year. This winter, he didn’t have his usual episode of darkness and found himself smiling for no reason. Until now. Although I am not surprised that his wife left, I have to question, why now? Why now, when he was smiling and happy?
I ranted and raved a bit at God. He doesn’t seem to ever answer my prayers, at least that I can see. It seems like my prayers are futile about so many things: healing for the sick, hope for the depressed, among others. My prayers are not blanket prayers such as “heal the sick” but very specific and very heartfelt. The silence from God is more profound, the more I pray. Sometimes I wonder that if I never prayed at all, never expected a miracle or answered prayer for healing, hope, peace or joy for those I love, would I be better off?
So, when I get to feeling this way and don’t know where to turn, I open the Bible. It never fails that as I randomly just pick a passage, it always speaks to me and gives me peace. Who randomly reads a passage from Micah? This girl and it did speak to me, and put me in my place and gave me direction. In the first few verses of Micah Chapter 6, the people of Israel are getting a little tongue lashing. Ouch, I read this right after ranting and raving to God. So, this humbled me and I had to ask forgiveness and acknowledge that even though our family has had more than our share of heartache, God has always, always, been with me. I never went through anything alone. He always provided. Ouch again, Micah chapter 6, verse 7 “shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”? I sort of lost my breath during that verse because yes, my son is my firstborn, the fruit of my body and I had ranted and raved to God and now regret it. But then, verse 8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. And verse 8 of Micah chapter 6 is the direction and attitude that I must take.
So, as I move forward to a new week, I will try to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I needed this reminder to stop making everything so complicated.
My son, who suffers from depression, stopped by for a few minutes the other day. It’s winter and gloomy and this is the season in which his depression rears it’s ugliest head. A typical winter brings a sense of despondency in his life which leads to his “family team” to make multiple suggestions and ask questions such as “maybe you should try a new medication”, “have you seen your doctor?”, “how about trying light therapy?”, “are you feeling suicidal?”, “drinking in excess?”, “are you ready for rehab and/or inpatient?” and so on. I have come to the full realization that I am helpless to help him.
Several years ago, more like 25 years ago, I dreamed that he was full of joy. He was looking at a woman and a young girl and on their faces were looks of adoration and on his face was pure joy. I’ve always held on to that dream and I’ve prayed to God so many times for him to have joy. My wish for him is not fame or fortune, but pure joy.
So anyway, getting back to his visit, I invited him to stay and eat with us. As we were eating and chatting about nothing of importance and ignoring the elephant in the room, he told me that this year is different. He doesn’t know why it is happening but he said “I catch myself smiling for no reason.” I thought about that long ago dream again and a glimmer of hope fluttered in my heart. This!! This is what I want for him!! Smiling for no reason! Joy! I’m afraid to hope that it will be long lasting but I would give anything for it to be true. I’m almost afraid for the next visit or the next phone call that may indicate a downward spiral into that dark pit of despair. But for today, I am so very happy for the winter smile. I love you, son.
My oldest son suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts. He self medicates with alcohol. As you may or may not know, we already lost one son due to alcohol. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop with fear and trepidation. I hope I am wrong. I pray I am needlessly worrying.
When my oldest was in his late teens or early twenties, I would wake in the middle of the night and pray for him. As parents, we did pursue the usual avenues to help him such as hospitalization, counseling, medication and so on. But when it all fails, what is left but a miracle?
During one of my all night prayer sessions, I wrote a song. I tried to put myself in his mind and it was so very dark there. I imagined what it must be like for him to look in the mirror and thus, I wrote the following song. It starts out as a slow, sad tune but just before the chorus, the tempo changes and the chorus is jubilant. You will just have to use your imagination.
Title: God is greater
I look in the mirror
Tell me, who am I?
Down deep in my eyes
Are pools of pain and despair.
Darkness surrounds me
Feels like I’m drowning in this world of sin.
(transition as tempo builds)
But a message of hope
of peace and a light
Shines deep from within.
’cause God is greater, greater
and greater is in me.
God is greater, greater
and greater is in me.
You pick me up when I fall.
Your love, it carries me.
You are the light of the world
and you give me peace.
You are my rock and my hope.
My joy and my strength.
Oh, light of the world,
Shine your light down on ME!
Recently, during a 45 day stay in inpatient rehab, my son left me a message on my phone. He sounded so happy and content. He was feeling peaceful. I saved the message and I listen to it sometimes. His peace did not last long. He is self medicating and depressed again. How sad it must be for him, to live in that darkness. A verse with no chorus. He found peace for a brief time and I listen to his phone message to remind me that it could happen again. You know what my biggest fear is? That I will accidentally erase the message and I will no longer be able to hear those moments when he was what he was meant to be, even for a short time.
So….. as my aunt is driving us down the road and my mother is crying and banging her head on the dash of the car, the other man is seen walking down the street. Coincidence? Who knows, who cares, it happened. At this point in time, no one realized my father had walked through the front door and put a gun to his head. A mad dash to the airport ensued. As we were waiting in the airport ticket area, the police arrived to tell us my father was dead. I don’t remember how it happened but my next flashback is of being back in the yard of my aunt. I looked toward the back door of her house and see the other man leaning against the door frame sobbing. My mother had a complete breakdown and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. My siblings and I were loaded into our family station wagon and my Uncle proceeded to drive across several states so we could live with another aunt until my mother could recover. My only memory of driving across multiple states was of my uncle pulling off the road to fix us bologna sandwiches. I was confused and afraid and all I could do was cry because he put mayonnaise on my sandwich and I didn’t like mayonnaise and I was too afraid to tell him. I didn’t lose just my father that day, but also my mother. My father’s suicide and how the aftermath was handled, shaped my whole life.
Even though I do not blame my mother for the suicide of my father, I do want to add that I think she, as a parent, handled it very poorly. I suppose it goes along with the the time period of people not talking about unpleasant things and counseling was taboo and a sign of weakness. I want to say that she did the best she could but I don’t really believe it. So, to be honest, I wish she would have taken me to counseling. I wish she would have said something positive about my father, just once, in all the years that followed. You see, the only words she said were to make him out to be a horrible monster, and that horrible monster was a part of me. So, in turn, I felt this constant struggle of the part horrible monster being in my DNA but I loved him and missed him and had no one to talk to about it.
Fifty years later, and after finally getting some counseling for myself, I finally told my mother that if she said anything negative about him again that I would walk out. I didn’t want to hear it anymore. She said “I thought you always blamed me” and I told her that I never blamed her. Fifty years too late but she has not said a word since. Fifty years!! Cuss words are not typically in my vocabulary but Fifty Fucking Years. For the love of God and all that is Holy, surviving spouses of suicide, please get yourself and your children some professional help. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Don’t wait fifty years. Do it today.
Hmmm. So much to share but don’t know where to begin so I will begin my story with my first traumatic experience at age 5. My father committed suicide. The last memory of my father is of him coming to my Aunt’s house. We were playing outside. He came to the yard, put us in the car and drove away. I remember that I was excited because this was going to be a surprise for my mother. “Is it perfume?” I asked. I don’t remember his answer but I know it wasn’t the surprise.
A little backstory: my mother wanted to divorce my father. She had met another man who made her feel loved and special. This other man was also married. I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of what transpired between the two of them and don’t need to know. I don’t blame my mother or the other man or my father. Anyway, my mother and the other man arranged a meeting with their current spouses and stated that they wanted to divorce and marry each other. Long story short, my mother decided to give her marriage another try and we all picked up and moved for a fresh start.
Sometime shortly after, in a new State, my father intercepted letters between my mother and the other man. At the time of the big “S” (suicide), the other man was in the same vicinity and he and my mother had made contact. The other man wanted to take mother, me and my siblings back to our original home town. He felt like we were all in danger.
Back to the big “S” …. My father drove us to our house, took us inside, sat us down and told us to stay there. In the meantime, my mother discovered we were missing. My aunt and my mother pulled up outside in my aunt’s car. My oldest brother, seeing a chance to escape, grabbed me and my other brother and ran out the door. I’m 5. I have no real idea of what is going on. We are on the steps leading down from the porch. My mom is at the bottom of the steps screaming for us to get in the car. We get in the car. My Aunt tells us to get down in the floorboard. I can’t resist looking up and out the car window. My father is on the porch pointing a gun alternately at himself and at my mother. She is yelling “go ahead, you can’t hurt me anymore”. He slowly shakes his head and walks inside the front door. Mother gets in the passenger side of the car and my aunt drives away.
I will share more of this story later. My heart is pounding and it is still so overwhelming. I’ve had 55 years to come to terms with it but I need a break before I continue.